OHLALA spoke to Dina Bseisu, founder and president of the non-profit association Challenge to Change. We got insights into her own story and the life-transforming organisation.
“Acceptance does not mean resignation. Acceptance shows wisdom, courage and resilience if you believe in yourself.”― Dina Bseisu
OHLALA – Can you explain the main work done by Challenge to Change?
Dina Bseisu – Challenge to Change is a Swiss non-profit association I founded in 2016. It is a platform for the empowerment of Arab women. We offer life-changing programmes that catalyse positive change in our beneficiaries’ lives, especially those marginalised and disadvantaged.
OHLALA – Before creating the non-profit organisation, you worked in the banking sector. How was the transition between these two completely different areas? How did you come up with the Challenge to Change concept?
Dina – When I was working as a career banker in Switzerland, I loved what I did. I am essentially a people person and I was responsible for assisting high-net-worth clients with their wealth management needs. I would help them with their investments, family businesses, next-generation planning and many other facets of their assets. This involved building a close and personal relationship with my clients and their families and I cherished that. After being in banking for over 30 years, I wanted to change sectors and give back to society. The cause of empowering Arab women was always very close to my heart, so I founded Challenge to Change. Its concept stems from Gandhi’s saying: “Be the change you want to see in the world.” I believe that Arab women can transform their lives by changing themselves. They have huge potential despite their challenges. They are brave and resilient. We empower these women to have confidence in themselves and turn each difficulty into a positive new opportunity. I often tell our girls that our life is like being in a sailboat, we cannot change the winds, but we can certainly learn how to master our sails to navigate them towards our objectives.
OHLALA – What accomplishments make you proud of the work done by Challenge to Change?
Dina – I feel proud when I see the promise in the eyes of each young woman we help. There are countless success stories of women who have transformed their lives, surmounted difficulties and earned their families’ respect and their place in society. These women have benefited from our life-changing programmes and are now more qualified and earning incomes. I am proud to say that we have empowered over 20,000 Arab women.
OHLALA – What is the most significant differential of your organisation?
Dina – We believe that we differentiate ourselves by focusing on confidence-building and soft skills. When a woman is strong and self-confident, she is more likely to succeed in life at all levels. Mental well-being, inner strength and self-confidence are one’s backbone. Education would be useless if these aspects were lacking, so we focus on strengthening these core attitudes.
OHLALA – In your work as a motivational speaker, how do you see your speeches affecting people? How important is it for other women to listen to similar stories they can associate with?
Dina – I am an advocate for women’s empowerment and mental health. When I speak about both topics, I do it in an interactive way where I encourage participants to talk openly about experiences they might usually be too ashamed or shy to speak about. The sessions are often closed and confidential. I encourage them to speak by drawing from my own life experiences, and most of them often relate to them. They normally open up about childhood trauma, abuse, depression, self-esteem issues and more. It is very powerful when participants feel that they can connect and are not alone in their feelings. The group’s empathy often develops into a community of sisterhood that provides them with comfort and a safe space to which they can always belong and come back for support.
OHLALA – You spend your time between Bahrain and Geneva. What do you like most about these places? And what connects you to them?
Dina – Bahrain is home. It is where I grew up and the country to which I belong. There is no place like home! Bahrain offers a quality of life that is unparalleled. It is one big family where even strangers in the street smile at you, offer to help you and overwhelm you with their kindness. Geneva is where I lived for over 25 years. It is where my children were born and where I thrived as a banker. I have many fond memories there. I love the climate, the greenery, the lakes and the snow-capped mountains. Geneva and Bahrain have some things in common: the quality of life, peacefulness and absence of crowds and noise that plague most cities today.
OHLALA – If you could give only one piece of advice using your experience in women’s empowerment and mental wellness, what would it be?
Dina – I would tell people to get rid of the ‘victim mentality’. We are not victims! We should be proud of where we come from, our societies and our family structures. True, we may sometimes feel constrained by them, but if we accept our world and work on improving ourselves, we will see that our world will change for the better. It may take time but it will change. Acceptance does not mean resignation. Acceptance shows wisdom, courage and resilience if you believe in yourself.